TORONTO: Schools in Ontario will reopen for in-class learning only in September for the 2021-22 school year.
The Ontario government has decided to continue with remote learning for all elementary and secondary students across the province for the remainder of this school year.
This will allow the province to continue its focus on accelerating COVID-19 vaccinations to support a safer summer.
“At a time when our top priority is putting the third wave behind us so that we can safely enter Step One of our Roadmap to Reopen, we can’t risk increased cases and potential downstream impacts on hospitals and ICUs,” said Premier Ford.
“Making this tough decision now will allow kids to safely enjoy camps and outdoor activities this summer, and a safe return to school in September.”
Recent modelling presented by the Science Advisory Table revealed that if Ontario reopened schools to in-person learning the province could see an increase of six to 11 per cent in the number of new daily COVID-19 cases.
It is unknown how many of these would be the new, more dangerous B.1.617.2 variant first identified in India, which has entered the province through Canada’s borders. An increase in cases and the spread of variants would also threaten Ontarians’ hard-fought progress in beating the third wave and could delay the safe return to many summer activities for kids, including day and overnight camps, sports leagues and public pools, among other important activities that support children’s physical and mental wellbeing.
“While this decision was not made lightly, it has been done with one aim: protect the summer for families and deliver a stable and safe September for students,” said Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education.
“We are looking forward and taking action by getting all education workers and students vaccinated with both doses ahead of September, while investing an additional $2 billion to ensure students and staff are safe.”
School boards will continue to have safety plans in place for students who are experiencing or could be expected to experience mental health challenges. This will help them to have continued access to remote or in-person services through the school, community child and youth mental health service providers or local health care partners. Schools will continue to remain open for in-person learning for special education students who cannot be accommodated through remote learning until the end of June.
Students, parents and families also have a number of mental health resources that are available to them through their school board as well as through other providers, including Kids Help Phone, which offers 24/7 counselling and referral services across the province, as well as resources through School Mental Health Ontario and services through child and youth mental health agencies.
Offering the protection of the vaccine to youth aged 12 and over is a significant milestone in Ontario’s fight against COVID-19. The province expects to reach all youth aged 12 and over who want a vaccine with a first dose before the end of June and with a second dose by the end of August 2021.
Following prioritization of education workers with a first dose this spring, the province also expects to reach all education workers with a second dose by the week of August 15, if not already eligible earlier by age cohort or other eligibility. This is subject to vaccine supply.
The government will allow school boards to invite graduating students in elementary schools (by class) and secondary schools (by homeroom/quadmestered class) to return to school in June for a short, outdoor celebration, where physical distancing is possible.
With schools closed for in-person learning, emergency child care (ECC) will continue until the end of June to align with the end of the elementary school year. Before and after school programs will remain closed and will continue to not charge parent fees, which is prohibited during the remote learning period.
• Ontario’s school reopening plan was endorsed by Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health and funded with $1.6 billion dollars in COVID-19 resources to protect students and staff.
• The emergency child care (ECC) program has been an important support for parents of school-aged children, who are frontline workers that are unable to support their children’s learning at home while they are required to go to work. During the latest round of emergency child care, more than 11,000 school-aged children have been accessing programs across the province each day.
• Child care for non-school aged children (i.e. children aged 0-4) will remain open. This includes child care offered in licensed child care centres, and in homebased settings.